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Charge those fries on credit card


To expand their business, the nation's credit card companies are enticing consumers to use the cards for everyday expenses.

MasterCard, for instance, is accepted at 500 movie theaters nationwide and has a card-acceptance program under way with the New York and New Jersey Port Authority for payment of airport parking fees.

Nationally, credit cards are accepted at some fast-food outlets such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Wendy's, McDonald's and Burger King. And cards are being tested among taxi services in Denver and Los Angeles.

Medical and dental offices, hospitals and other health-care providers are also among emerging markets for credit cards, according to MasterCard and its San Francisco-based rival, Visa USA.

Picking good stocks or bonds is important, but some investors may put too much emphasis on individual securities.

What really counts is the mix of assets, says Ibbotson Associates, an investment-research firm in Chicago.

According to Ibbotson, how you divide your investment assets can account for 92 percent of your investing results. Only 6 percent was attributed to picking good securities. Market timing accounted for 2 percent.

The most common investment categories include stocks, bonds and cash. Investors seeking to diversify should develop a strategy for dividing their assets among those categories to achieve a desired level of risk and return.

As the price of new cars continues to rise, many consumers are opting for used vehicles. For those new to the game of used-car shopping, the Federal Trade Commission has a free booklet called "Buying a Used Car." To order a copy, write to FTC, Consumer Assistance Branch, Room 130, Sixth Street and Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.

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